As I’ve written before, social media can be really, really, really bad for your mental health. This is for a variety of reasons, including:
- It inspires unrealistic comparisons between yourself and others.
- It creates unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of how someone should be living their life.
- It can lead to increased feelings of isolation.
- It can inspire jealousy.
All of this, and more, are why I am going to be paying particular attention to research and experiences as they pertain to social media and mental health. I swear, it’s almost like we need a primer on how to teach people to use social media at this point. I’m looking at my kids – they are 6 and almost 5 – and terrified of the day that I will have to relent, give them a phone, and allow them to be exposed to the world that isn’t real.
Let me go back to what I just said: A primer. Seriously, we need that when we go on social media! The world that appears in our newsfeed can be so fake, so overwhelming and so depressing, that I think it’s important that we keep a few things in mind when we use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. Some initial thoughts:
First, and most importantly: THIS. IS. NOT. THE. REAL. WORLD. Say it with me now: “Social media is not the real world.” That happy, smiling family? Probably upset as often as you. That sweet looking couple? They have struggles, too. Social media allows for a very biased view of the world, where everyone looks shiny and happy and pretty. It is so, so important to keep in mind that there is very little about social media that is real. People choose to present a biased picture of themselves, one in which they seem perfect, even if they aren’t. If you can keep that in mind while scrolling through your newsfeed, odds are good that you won’t be quite as miserable while you scroll.
Second, approach social media with a Dale Carnegie perspective. I took a Dale Carnegie course about a decade ago and it changed my life. One of the most important lessons I learned was this: No one wants to hear about you. In the course of public discourse, instead of focusing obsessively on yourself, focus on other people and how you can make them feel good. To that end, when you are on Facebook and Instagram, don’t scroll through your feed looking for likes and clicks on your own content. Instead, approach social media from the prospective of how you can make someone else happy. Like other people’s comments. Try to be joyful and happy for their accomplishments. Instead of comparing yourself to others, try to just be happy for other people.
And yes, I know that is easier said than done.
Third, stop comparing yourself. Yes, this is directly related to item #1: If you use social media and think, “Why aren’t I having as good a time as Jimmy is?” you are going to make yourself depressed. If you use it and think “Well, good for them, they are having fun!” you’ll be fine. Remember, in this instance, treat social media like the real world: Do you run around, comparing yourself to random people that you see on the street? I hope not.
Anything else to add? Let us know in the comments!